Stories on Stories: The Feast of Love (PLUS CRAZY NEWS)

My family vacationed on Block Island about 12 years ago. I was a sophomore in college and I remember us all feeling young. We talked about how we, the three kids, might return to the island the next year, how I'd take care of Kate and Steve by working at the island's newspaper. I remember worrying vaguely about how we'd make rent.

I was very anxious about my parents, who must have been arguing. In the haze of my memories, I remember almost no details but the vivid, twisted feeling in my gut that results from parental disagreements.

On this vacation, I bought a book that would become legend in my life: The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. I picked it up because I am often attracted to books about love and because the cover looked calming.

I've read it at least 15 times. At last count, I had three copies on our bookshelves. I acquire copies of this book, never knowing when I might need to give one away. At used bookstores, I make my way to the Bs, looking to see if anyone has marked up a copy and left it for me to snatch up.

One of the copies, the one I am currently rereading, was with me in Paris. When I loaned it out, I asked people to underline their favorite sections and write their names and page numbers in the inside back cover. As I re-read this time, I encounter Blythe's and Corinne's and Evelyn's and Angela's notes. It is like reading with friends.

This is a book about the ways we each see our relationships from different angles. It's a smart book about love, one that allows for break-ups and divorce... but also magic and fate. I once broke up with a guy because he hated the character of Diana and said he saw nothing good in her.

I see tiny parts of myself in Diana.

This time around, I noticed the strong female characters. My favorite lines hummed as I read them. A few:

"When people are staring off into their neighborhood infinity, before they see me, what are they thinking about? That's what I'm trying to grasp. I think they're stupefied, thinking about love, mostly, how they once had it, how they got it, how they lost it, and all the people they loved or didn't love, how they ended up royally hating somebody, like, the weirdness and wetness of it."

"Every relationship has at least one really good day. What I mean is, no matter how sour things go, there's always that day. That day is always in your possession. That's the day you remember. You get old and you think: well, at least I had that day. It happened once. You think all the variables might just line up again. But they don't. Not always. I once talked to a woman who said, 'Yeah, that's the day we had an angel around."

Last weekend I started my re-read. From time to time, I've reached out to Charles Baxter on his website. He always writes back. On Sunday I sent him a new message, the first one in 5 years. I told him how much the book has meant to me. I told him there's an item on my Life List about taking him to lunch. I told him I may be in Minneapolis this spring. I asked him if I could buy him a sandwich.

And you guys? He said yes.

Looks like we're going to Minnesota. Holy, holy crap.


lindsay said...

Amazing!!! What a fabulous opportunity Jen! So happy for you! Xoxo, Linds

Erica said...

That is awesome. I can't wait to hear all about your meeting!

Anonymous said...

haha. thats brilliant!try not to be too nervous and dont prepare this meeting too much!!! xx


Meg said...

You gave me a copy of this book when I graduated Muhlenberg. I still have it and still love it.

I am so damn excited for you! I'm really impressed that you're brave enough to reach out to somebody and actually ask. Of course he said yes :) The universe has been pulling you two together. I cannot wait to hear all about the lunch!!

Abby said...

OMG That is INCREDIBLE! Way to go Jen!

Tara said...

that's incredible! i think i need to read this book now.

Jen said...

You guys rule! I'm even more excited now that I heard from all of you. :)

Erica said...

PS - your post was so inspiring that I bought the book. Now I can't wait to read it!

Daffodil Campbell said...

Lovely :) And now I need to read that book! xo

Anne said...

Am ordering this book today. Thank you and sounds like Charles should buy YOU lunch from all the marketing you're doing. Congratulations.

Wendell McTravelNerd said...

I adored this book and may need to give it a re-read after reading your post today. I'm tickled to hear you're going to get buy Charles Baxter a sandwich. It'd be even cooler if you could meet him on a park bench 'round midnight like in the book. Can't wait to read about this meet up in Minneapolis. Can't wait!